Highway blockage threatens Chitwan tourism

Published On: July 27, 2017 08:20 AM NPT By: Ramesh Kumar Paudel

CHITWAN, July 26: Tourism entrepreneurs in Chitwan are extremely worried these days. The flow of tourists is declining everyday due to the hassles on the road to reach the city, they say. They have stressed building an alternative route to the Mugling-Narayanghat road section, where landslides are normal during the rainy season, in order to prevent further damage to the city's tourism.

The project for widening the road section is going on for over two years. Despite extending the deadline twice in the past, the project which started in April 2015 hasn't seen much progress. The road section is blocked six hours a day everyday for the project. Moreover, landslides on the road section have become regular of late due to the incessant rain, bringing vehicular movement to a halt for long hours. Just recently, vehicular movement on the road section was blocked for as many as 34 hours. There also have been human casualties in the landslides. 

“If we do not look for an alternate route, the city's tourism will incur an irreparable loss.  We are already badly affected,” said Suman Ghimire, president of the regional chapter of the Hotel Association Nepal (HAN), Chitwan.  “We must be very serious about it and do something right now,” he added.

This was the agenda of the seventh general meeting of HAN held in Chitwan on Saturday. All possible routes have been studied, according to the association.

“We are putting pressure on the government for this. We are also trying to figure out the right alternative,” said Ghimire. 

He expressed worries saying that the road expansion project is not likely to complete anytime soon given the pace of work. On the other hand, landslides continue to be a threat, he noted. “We have to give safer and easier way to the people. Tourists don't want to travel on dangerous roads. So, we must handle this matter seriously,” Ghimire said.
As per the data of Chitwan National Park, 139,125 people visited the park last fiscal year. Chitwan is considered the third biggest tourist center in the country, after Kathmandu and Pokhara.

Tourism was hit hard also in 2015 due to the earthquake. The economic blockade by India further paralyzed it. Tourism entrepreneurs say that the city was just making a comeback when again faced such unexpected troubles. “We have had enough of problems in the past. Hotels, businesses were shut down. Gradually, we mustered courage to rise again but this kind of inconvenience is on the way again,” said Bhesh Raj Dawadi, vice-president of the Association. “If we cannot find a solution to this, it will be a huge loss,” he added.

Ghimire meanwhile pointed out that very few tourists are booking for travel to Chitwan, much to the disappointment of travel agencies in Kathmandu and elsewhere. Hoteliers in Chitwan are looking forward to getting enough number of guests, but to no avail. “From September, the tourist season begins. But looking at the present scenario, we are not much hopeful. People have not booked their stays in Chitwan,” Ghimire said. 

Only 15 percent of tourists visiting the city opt for airway, according to Ghimre.

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